After more than half of the businesses in an alcohol sales sting failed to ask young-looking 21-year-olds for identification, Carson City's sheriff is taking a novel approach to curbing underage drinking.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong says his approach is aimed at educating the owners instead of hammering servers with fines.
"It could have been everyone checked IDs and we have no problem, but the opposite happened-- nobody checked IDs and we have a problem," said Detective Sgt. Bob White.
White said of the 138 businesses in Carson City with liquor licenses, 54 were visited May 29 by a person of legal drinking age, but who looked younger. Fifty-one percent of those businesses served the person without asking for identification.
In conjunction with the "Stand Tall, Don't Fall; Students United Against Underage Drinking" program sponsored by the Nevada Juvenile Justice Commission, Furlong said his department will have an ongoing part in educating business-owners of the laws surrounding minor's consuming alcohol.
"This is a three step-process," Furlong said.
In the first phase, he said, the department established a baseline of the needs. During the second phase they will visit businesses and if a minor is served alcohol they will warn the clerk and inform the owner of the need for improvement in their policy. In the third phase police will issue $800 citations to those clerks not in compliance with the law. A tally of businesses in violation will be kept for reporting to the Liquor Board on revocations of licenses.
"We don't' want to go out and hammer all these businesses," White said. "We want to educate them first of the law before citing them."
Furlong said the program is another step in his goal for the department to be more community oriented.
"We don't have to be heavy handed in everything that we do," he said.
"(Compliance) takes more than a sign on the register that says we ID. We're making more business owners aware."
White said the program, paid for by a grant from the state's juvenile justice commission, has steps geared at getting the message across.
"We tell the owners 'We tested you, you failed. We will test you again and if you fail, we will cite you,'" he said. "This should motivate the owners."
Diane Forsythe, bar manager of Red's Old 395 Grill, said her company has a strict enforcement of compliance with the law.
"We send all of our employees through a class, pay our employees $10 for every fake ID they get, and if you have no ID, even if you're 50 years old, you won't be served," she said. "We card everybody and we will fire any of our employees that do not card. If (customers) come up to the bar and order a pitcher of beer with five glasses, we have to see five IDs"
Doug Bocsker, the Sluggo part of Mo and Sluggo's Bar and Grill, said he was pleased to see the Sheriff's Department taking steps toward prevention.
"I think any kind of public awareness for juveniles about drinking alcohol is good," he said. "I think the owners and the public need to know that it won't be tolerated. We tell our employees here, 'If in doubt, ask and if they don't have ID don't serve them."
"We have three options anytime we come in contact with an offender," Furlong said. "We can arrest them, cite them or warn them. For phase two of the program we will be warning businesses. We want to educate them first."